We are so proud of one of our graduate students, Jorge Rivera. This spring it was announced that Mr. Rivera is being honored Jorge Riveraas Teacher of the Year at Lee A. McShan Elementary School! Mr. Rivera will be graduating next week with a Master of Bilingual Education. He graciously agreed to answer a few questions so that we can learn more about him, his teaching experience, and his learning experience at SMU Simmons.

1. How long have you taught at McShan Elementary?

I have been at Lee A. McShan Elementary School since November 2011. Before McShan, I worked at two other elementary schools in 4 different grade levels (Kinder, first, second, and third grade) in three years. It was a difficult situation that I had to deal with due to a Dallas ISD leveling policy.

2. What challenges do you face as a teacher?

The main challenge that I have to face is unmotivated students. Students are unmotivated because of low self-efficacy (they don’t believe in their own abilities to reach a goal) and self-esteem (they have a negative evaluation of themselves). Another major challenge that I face with my 5th grade students is their lack of sufficient background knowledge because they don’t like to read.

3. What made you decide to pursue study at SMU?

In the fall of 2008, I started working as a bilingual teacher for the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD). I knew very little about English Language learners, as this was the first time I had worked with this population of students. I noticed within a few days that if I wanted my students to receive effective instruction and succeed academically, I needed to identify and cater to their diverse characteristics and needs. During my first two years as a DISD teacher, I attended as many professional development opportunities as were available. However, it became very clear to me that traditional professional staff development was not going to suffice my needs to become an effective teacher. Thus, I decided to apply for the Master of Bilingual Education (MBE) degree program at SMU.

4. How has your SMU education served you in your teaching position?

All the courses I have taken and professors I have met at SMU have made a tremendous impact on my teaching philosophy. I am now an avid consumer of educational research. Consequently, my teaching began to improve since I was accepted into the MBE program and the principal and administrators invited me to participate in the Campus Instructional Leadership Team (CILT) at my school. I have been asked several times to facilitate staff development opportunities for my colleagues and to help tutor struggling learners in other grades.

5. Why do you think you were awarded Teacher of the Year?

I think I was selected to serve as Teacher of the Year at my school because my students have become leaders at our campus. They have experienced a true paradigm shift. For the last two years, my students have achieved the highest scores (96.4% and 97%) in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading test. My “scholars” are also very involved in other programs at our schools, such as our “Safety Patrol”. They are role models and younger students look up to them.

6. What are your future plans?

I would like to pursue a doctorate degree at SMU.

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